Latest Update August 29, 2019

Paraylzed Veterans Respond to Department of Transportation’s Continued Unlawful Delay to Address Airline Restroom Accessibility

After revealing in July 2019 that DOT's plans for airline restroom accessibility would fall “short of increasing the size of the lavatories,” DOT now argues that it should be enough for disabled travelers that the agency propose new “accessibility features within lavatories.” But according to DOT’s own regulations, full restroom accessibility requires a person in a wheelchair to be able to enter, maneuver inside the restroom to use the facilities and exit.

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Democracy Forward, on behalf of Paralyzed Veterans of America, petitioned a federal court to require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to comply with a Congressional requirement to issue rules about restroom accessibility on airplanes for public comment.

The mandamus petition follows reports that many new airplane restrooms are just 24 inches wide (nearly a foot narrower than an average porta-potty). In today’s filing, veterans with disabilities detailed the need to intentionally dehydrate themselves before a flight, use catheters while on a flight, wear protective undergarments, and take other extreme measures to assuage the stress and embarrassment many travelers with disabilities face when unable to access an airplane restroom during a flight.

Airplane manufacturers, airlines, disability groups and other members of a DOT-negotiated rulemaking committee developed a proposed rule intended to make airplane restrooms accessible for air travelers with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs. In 2016, Congress issued a clear directive that the agency should release a rule for public comment by July 2017, but to date, DOT has not released the rule. Furthermore, the agency has taken the additional step to remove the lavatories rule from the administration’s regulatory agenda.

The petition for writ of mandamus was filed November 28, 2018 in the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

Karianne Jones

Senior Counsel

Litigating cases on issues involving, among other things, gender justice, civil rights, and workplace justice.

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